During the fall and winter of 2012, the NHL and the NHLPA had a little disagreement over their working relationship. The squabble over revenue sharing, contract length and a salary cap lasted from September 15th until January 12th of 2013. While it wasn’t as devastating to fans as the 2004-05 lockout*, it did deny fans over 600 NHL games, and reduced the season from 82 to games to 48. It also cost Lightning fans the chance to see whether Steven Stamkos could score 60 goals in back-to-back seasons.
During the lockout some players went to Europe and Russia to try and stay in shape. Others, like Jordan Eberle and Braden Holtby, played in the AHL. Stamkos didn’t do either. According to the Tampa Bay Times, he spent most of the time working out with Gary Roberts (big surprise) and with his skating coach, Jari Byrski (AHN-believable!).
From the Tampa Bay Times article, it sounded like Stamkos was waiting to see if the entire season was going to be cancelled before looking into going overseason. He was a bit wary of going overseas to play due to the possibility of injury.^ That’s never happened to a Lightning player before, has it? Oh yeah, it has.
So there wasn’t much for Stamkos to do other than work out, play hockey with his dad, and stand on a pond holding a fish for Nike.
That little kid saying he’ll go to Russia is a bit intense. You might want to keep sharp instruments away from him.
Just because he wasn’t playing in a league doesn’t mean he wasn’t on the ice with other NHLers. Throughout the lockout there were a couple of charity games that Stamkos participated in. The first was Operation Hat Trick benefitting the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Thirty-two players took to the ice in Atlantic City that night, with Stamkos on Team South Jersey.
Oh sure, Stamkos will play wing for charity, but suggest it happens during an NHL game and all of a sudden Toronto is reporting a rift between Stamkos and the coach. But look, he took the ice with future teammate Braydon Coburn! While the hockey might not have been Stanley Cup Final intense, they did manage to raise $500,000 for charity that night.
A month later, Stamkos not only participated in, but was one of the headliners for, the RBC Play Hockey Challenge. Stamkos and his childhood friend P.K. Subban were captains for a friendly competition at the Mattamy Athletic Center, probably known better by its old name — the original Maple Leaf Gardens. After all, the owners weren’t going to let the players use their facilities when they were battling them at the negotiating table.
Stamkos captained a team that included teammates from his younger days (Michael Del Zotto and Matt Martin) and from his NHL days (Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell) and a future teammate (BJ Crombeen).
Team Stamkos won 14-10, and the NHLPA and RBC raised over $100,000 to support grassroots hockey campaigns in Canada. Not only was it a chance to get on the ice for the pros, but they also saw it as a chance to give a little live hockey to their fans. As Stamkos said after the game, “It was outstanding to see the turnout (2,600 in attendance) because obviously the fans are hurting through this process.”
As much fun as they had on the ice (Stamkos scored on the opening shift, by the way) the lockout loomed over the game. The players expressed frustration with the lack of progress. At this point, there wasn’t much bargaining going on, something that obviously irked Stamkos,
“Obviously, everyone is frustrated and anxious,” he told ESPN, “the point we’re at right now is not something you want to see. But we’ll wait and see what transpires over the next few weeks.”
Luckily for Stamkos and the players, the two sides were able to work things out over those “few weeks,” and just after the new year, an agreement was reached. Gone were the charity games and back were the regular NHL games.
*On a personal note, the 2004-05 lockout was probably the greatest thing to happen to my personal life. I started dating my wife during the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup (I missed Game 7 against the Flyers because we were on our first date at the Tampa Theatre, luckily she was out of town for the Finals). I’m pretty sure if she realized how into hockey I was she would have run far, far away.
^Traikos, Michael. "Lockout Robbing Stamkos of Time; Itching for 'Real' Hockey; Trying to Build a Hall of Fame Career, the Centre is Idling." National PostDec 18 2012. ProQuest. Web. 25 Feb. 2017 .